I like this dessert because it has an exotic, elegant flavour, courtesy of the saffron and cardamom, while the raspberries make it seem light and refreshing. The meringues and pastry cream can be prepared several days in advance.
Toasted almond and green cardamom meringues with raspberries and saffron pastry cream
For the meringues:
100 grams ground almonds
90 grams egg whites, at room temperature
½ tsp fine sea salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar (or use ½ tsp fresh lemon juice)
180 grams super-fine sugar
¼ tsp ground cardamom
For the pastry cream and to finish the dessert:
1 large egg, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
125 grams granulated sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
40 grams cornstarch
550ml milk, divided
A pinch of saffron threads
50 grams butter, chilled
Fresh raspberries, as needed
Mint leaves, as needed
Make the meringue discs. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spread the ground almonds on a tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally so they colour evenly. Cool to room temperature. Reduce the heat to 95 degrees and let the oven cool while preparing the meringues.
With a dark pen, and using a 6cm round cutter as a guide, trace 12 to 16 circles on a sheet of parchment paper, spacing them about 2cm apart. Turn the paper over so the inked side is down. Lay the paper on a baking tray.
Put the egg whites and cream of tartar (or lemon juice) in a clean, dry, grease-free mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the whites until frothy, then add the salt. Add the sugar in a slow, steady stream, mixing continuously. Whip in the cardamom. Turn the mixer speed to high and whip until the meringue forms medium peaks. Gently fold in the toasted almonds. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with an 8mm plain tip. Starting in the centre of each traced circle, pipe the meringue in tight concentric circles to make 6cm discs. (You might be able to make more than 16 discs, depending on your piping abilities.) Place the tray in the oven and bake at 95 degrees for two hours, or until the discs are completely dry: they should be firm to the touch, and you should be able to lift them from the paper without them sticking. If you're serving the dessert the day you make the meringues, turn the oven as low as it will go and leave the discs in it. If you've prepared the meringues in advance, store them in an airtight container at room temperature, with a sheet of parchment paper between the layers. If the discs soften, lay them on a baking tray and dry them out in a warm (about 80 degrees) oven. Let them cool before using them.
Make the pastry cream. Put the egg and egg yolks in a bowl, add the sugar and salt and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the cornstarch and 50ml of milk, then whisk until smooth. Pour the remaining milk in a saucepan and add the saffron threads. Place over a medium flame and heat until the milk simmers, then turn off the heat. Ladle about 100ml of the milk into the egg mixture and whisk immediately. Repeat this twice, then pour the contents of the bowl into the saucepan. Turn the flame as low as possible and whisk constantly, making sure to scrape the entire interior of the pan so the mixture doesn't stick. Whisk for several minutes until the mixture is thick and smooth. Scrape the mixture into a clean bowl. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and scatter them over the pastry cream. When the butter melts, whisk it into the cream. Cool the mixture to room temperature, whisking often. Lay a sheet of cling-film directly on the surface of the pastry cream (this prevents a skin from forming) then refrigerate for at least two hours. This can be made several days in advance; it keeps for about a week.
Assemble the desserts just before serving, because the pastry cream will soften the meringue. Lay a meringue disc on a serving plate and spread a layer of the pastry cream over the surface, almost to the perimeter. Place the raspberries over the pastry cream. Spread a thin layer of pastry cream over the bottom of a second meringue disc, then place it, cream side-down, on the raspberries. Spoon a small blob of pastry cream on the top disc, then add a raspberry and garnish with a mint leaf. Serve immediately.
Styling: Nellie Ming Lee
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